Derrick Rose after first back-to-back in years: “I’m feeling good right now”

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Predicting how Derrick Rose’s knees will respond come December or the playoffs based on the sample of a couple Team USA scrimmages or one World Cup back-to-back is exactly why the phrase “small sample size theater” was invented. We don’t have nearly enough information yet. We don’t know.

All we really know is he’s shown flashes of his vintage self, then there was Sunday’s game against Turkey — Rose’s first back-to-back since about Thanksgiving — and he wasn’t as aggressive or explosive. Too early to draw broad conclusions from either one of those yet, but they are out there.

Of course, Rose says he’s fine. What else would you expect? Here are the latest Rose quotes via Marc Stein of ESPN direct from Spain.

“I’m just trying to put that behind me,” Rose said of any trepidation he’s feeling as he ramps up his comeback from the two devastating injuries that limited him to 10 games over the past two seasons with the Bulls.

“I know the questions are going to come and they’re going to be there the whole year. So I can’t get tired of it. I’m feeling good right now. Just trying to get in better shape, get in better condition, so that when I do need to score the ball, then it’ll be there.”

If Rose thinks he’s sick of answering these questions now, wait until January when they keep coming in every city on every road trip (not to mention at the United Center).

There is a mental side here — talk to any athlete in any sport coming back from a serious leg injury (or injuries) and he/she will say that really trusting that leg and just reacting without hesitation takes a little time. But there are physical concerns too, legitimate ones.

The USA starting Tuesday has three games in three days — New Zealand, Dominican Republic, Ukraine — which is even a bigger test for Rose’s knee. These should be easy wins for the USA, does Rose get a night off?

But at the end of the day for Bulls (and Rose) fans, all you really want out of the World Cup is for Rose to shake off the rust, work through some of the natural pain and  issues of a return, then just get back in the game ready to hit the ground running when camp opens.

Frankly, if you’re a fan of basketball you should be rooting for that — the NBA is far more fun to watch when vintage Rose is doing his thing. (Cavaliers fans, you can have an out here.)

Warriors hope to get Shaun Livingston, Matt Barnes back for second round

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The Golden State Warriors hope to get injured reserves Shaun Livingston and Matt Barnes back from injuries for the second round of the playoffs after getting more than a week off between series.

The Warriors said Saturday that Barnes has been upgraded to probable for Tuesday night’s Game 1 and Livingston remains questionable but is hopeful he will be ready to return. Star forward Kevin Durant is expected to be a full go after missing two games and being limited to 20 minutes in Game 4 last round because of a strained left calf.

Barnes has been sidelined since April 8, while Livingston sprained a finger on his right hand in Game 1 of the first-round against Portland.

Golden State begins the second round at home on Tuesday night against the winner of Sunday’s Game 7 between the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz. The Warriors have been off since sweeping the Trail Blazers last Monday, giving them more than a week between games.

“I’m trying to make sure I rest it as much as I possibly can, because when I do come back I plan on staying all the way back,” Livingston said Saturday. “Hopefully it will be ready for Tuesday.”

After taking Tuesday and Thursday off following their first-round sweep, the Warriors practiced for a second straight day Saturday. They plan to practice again on Sunday and then again Monday once they know their second-round opponent.

There is no update on the status of coach Steve Kerr, who missed the final two games of the first round because of complications from two back surgeries. Kerr talks daily with interim coach Mike Brown and took part in coaching meetings Friday but was not at practice on Saturday.

PBT Extra: Rockets vs. Spurs far more than Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden

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Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden. Two MVP candidates matching up in the second round of the NBA playoffs.

However, the San Antonio Spurs vs. Houston Rockets is much more than that.

It’s a battle of pace. It’s a chess match between two of the best coaches in the game. It’s about which team’s role players are going to step up.

I talk about all of that in this latest PBT Extra. Plus, of course, when Leonard will guard Harden.

How to start your Saturday night: Watching 15 minutes of best plays from NBA season

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There are no NBA playoff games Saturday night, the first night since the start of the postseason there hasn’t been one game. Don’t worry, there are two games on Sunday, including Game 7 between the Jazz and Clippers.

But if you need a Saturday night fix, this will have to do: 15 minutes of the best plays from last season, as compiled by NBA.com.

Go ahead, watch it. You’ve got nothing better to do.

 

Paul Millsap says the expected, he will “most likely” opt out of contract

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This is ranked right next to “overeating can lead to weight gain” on the list of surprising things, but we will dutifully report it anyway:

Paul Millsap is going to opt out and officially become a free agent this summer.

Atlanta’s owner as well as Mike Budenholzer, the coach and head of basketball operations, have both said they plan to do whatever it takes to re-sign Millsap with the Hawks. Millsap didn’t sound like someone eager to leave after the Hawks were eliminated from the playoffs Friday.

“It’s been great. I’m looking to expand this and see where the franchise can go. These last four years has been great. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

Even with both sides singing Kumbaya, keeping Millsap in Atlanta likely means a five-year contract at or near the max, which for a 32-year-old player means the Hawks would regret the last year or two of that deal.

Not that the Hawks have much of a choice here, they have to come in big and keep him. For one, they can’t afford to lose Al Horford and then Millsap for nothing in back-to-back years. If they were going down the rebuilding road, they needed to trade Millsap at the deadline (or last summer) to make sure they got something in return. Atlanta explored trade options at the deadline, but then pulled back (rumored to be because of an edict from ownership, which didn’t want to see the team blown up after the Kyle Korver trade).

By not making that trade the Hawks signaled their intention to remain a good team — a 43-win team this season that got them the five seed — with Dennis Schroder and Dwight Howard, one that draws well at an arena that historically has not been that full, and see if they can add on. They strike me as a team that will win between 42-50 games a year and be middle of the pack in the East for the next few years, unless they can find a way to add an elite player (which is incredibly difficult).

But if the Hawks can’t re-sign Millsap, then the plan gets blown up. So expect them to come in with a big offer come July 1.